Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Copyright 2014 National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
Edited By: Angela Calabrese Barton and Joseph Krajcik
Impact Factor: 3.02
ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2013: 6/219 (Education & Educational Research)
Online ISSN: 1098-2736
50th Anniversary Virtual Issue
| Celebrating 50 Years!|
In celebration of the Journal of Research and Science Teaching’s 50th anniversary, we have put together a special virtual issue highlighting the most influential works over the past 50 years, with complementary access to each article. We had young career award winners select the most influential articles and write a commentary for each. *[See full list of references here (PDF 190KB)]
1963 - 1969
The role of inquiry in science teaching
Rutherford, F. J. (1964)
Commentary by Julie Bianchini
In 1964, almost 50 years ago, Rutherford argued that teachers should become well- grounded in the history and philosophy of science so as to effectively teach science as inquiry in their classrooms. He defined scientific inquiry as part of the content of science itself. “To separate conceptually scientific content from scientific inquiry,” he underscored, “is to make it highly probable that the student will properly understand neither” (p. 84). Rutherford also discussed two ways teachers should engage their students in inquiry learning: (1) inquiry as content, where the process of discovery and investigation is integrated into the examination of science facts, laws, principles, and theories; and (2) inquiry as technique, where students conduct first-hand investigations of select topics to understand the nature of scientific inquiry as it actually happens.
Science educators, at least those in the US, should re/read Rutherford’s (1964) brief article for two reasons. One, it serves as a reminder that our efforts to make inquiry processes/science and engineering practices central to the teaching and learning of K-12 science extend at least as far back as the NSF-funded curriculum development projects of the post-World War II era. (Rutherford was a key contributor to Harvard Project Physics.) Now as then, science educators stand “unalterably opposed to the rote memorization of the mere facts and minutiae of science . . . and foursquare . . . for the teaching of . . . the inquiry method [now called practices]” (p. 80). As a second reason, even though the recent Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012) gives less time and attention to the nature and history of science, understanding the history and philosophy of science remains inextricably intertwined with reform-based science teaching. The ongoing debate over how to distinguish the practice of arguing from evidence, grounded in Toulmin’s (1958) work, from the practice of constructing explanations is a case in point (see Berland & McNeill, 2012; Osborne & Patterson, 2011, 2012). “Until science teachers have acquired a rather thorough grounding in the history and philosophy of the sciences they teach, . . . not much progress toward the teaching of science as inquiry can be expected” (Rutherford, 1964, p. 84).
Commentary by Fouad Abd-El-Khalick
Since its ‘infancy,’ JRST has played a critical role in shaping research and development in science education through consistently identifying and disseminating highly impactful work. This conceptual paper, published in JRST’s second volume, most likely was F. James Rutherford’s first journal publication. This is the same Rutherford who later would co-direct Harvard Project Physics with Gerald Holton and Fletcher Watson and co-author the famed Project Physics Course textbooks (e.g., Rutherford, Holton, & Watson, 1970), and eventually co-author with Andrew Ahlgren Science for All Americans (AAAS, 1990), arguably one of the most influential documents in the history of our field. Particularly significant is that this paper introduced or, at least, was the first to elucidate, the distinction between two meanings of scientific inquiry in the context of precollege science teaching, namely, “inquiry as content,” that is “as it appears in the scientific enterprise” and “inquiry as pedagogic technique,” that is “using the method of scientific inquiry to learn some science” (p. 80). This distinction continues to thrive and pervade our present discourse under rubrics, such as ‘inquiry as an end’ or developing understandings about scientific inquiry, and ‘inquiry as means’ or learning science content through inquiry (e.g., NRC, 2000). Equally important, Rutherford argued that inquiry and content are intertwined, “the wrap and woof of a single fabric” (p. 83) affirming that the effective teaching of science as inquiry becomes possible when science teachers “come to understand just how inquiry is in fact conducted in the sciences” (p. 84). Toward that end, Rutherford proposed a coupling that has guided and continues to guide a longstanding professional development agenda for teachers by unequivocally asserting that “until science teachers have acquired a rather thorough grounding in the history and philosophy of the sciences they teach, this kind of understanding will elude them, in which event not much progress toward the teaching of science as inquiry can be expected” (p. 84). In effect, Rutherford had tasked us with developing teachers’ understandings of nature of science, a task that continues to exercise extensive research and development efforts almost 50 years after the publication of his paper.
Development and learning
Piaget, J. (1964)
Commentary by Grady Venville
This is an amazing paper from an historical point of view, written and presented as a lead paper for two conferences held in 1964 at Cornell University and University of California, Berkeley by the Swiss developmental psychologist Gene Piaget and published in the second volume JRST. I understand from the preface of this issue of JRST that it was very difficult to convince Piaget to attend or present at international conferences, and I believe that the 50 delegates were privileged to attend the two conferences where he was chief consultant. Likewise, as NARST members, we are privileged to have access to these words from Piaget published in JRST. There is so much in the lines that reflect Piaget’s legacy as a pioneer of constructivist theory. One aspect of Piaget’s paper that struck me on reading it again recently is Piaget’s lucid distinction between development and learning that influenced education and science education in important and substantial ways. My own research agenda in science education has been contextualised within both developmental and learning frameworks and I find it empowering to go back to Piaget’s original descriptions of these epistemological constructs.
I was fortunate in the early stages of my career to work with Philip Adey during a postdoctoral research assistantship at King’s College, London where we did research on cognitive acceleration, that is, the potential to accelerate children’s cognitive development and broaden their cognitive processing in order to enable enhanced science learning. The influence of Piagetian theory on this avenue of research in science education was strong and radical, but not without controversy. This paper represents, for me, the kernel of the successful underpinning Piagetian theory of the work on cognitive acceleration by Philip Adey, Michael Shayer, Carolyn Yates, and colleagues that has been one of the few research programs that has genuinely translated into measurable cognitive gains and improvement in student achievement in science.
Relation of wait-time and rewards to the development of language, logic, and fate control: Part II-Rewards
Rowe, M.B. (1974)
Commentary by Julie Bianchini
Rowe’s (1974a) construct of wait-time is straightforward. She found that both the length and the quality of students’ responses increase when teachers slow the pace of instruction and give themselves and their students more time. She recommended teachers wait at least three seconds before (wait-time 1) and after (wait-time 2) students speak to enhance the “language and logic” of their answers (p. 81). Extended wait-time, Rowe continued, also increases the number of students who participate (including those labeled struggling by teachers) and the kinds of responses they generate (including new questions, evidence-inference statements, and responses to other students).
Rowe’s (1974) research on wait-time is much more complex than the construct itself. She recorded over a thousand hours of instruction in elementary classrooms where NSF-funded, inquiry-oriented materials were implemented. She then used a servo-chart plotter to systematically track the speech, pauses, and silences of teachers and students during their conversations. Indeed, it took Rowe (see also 1974b, 1974c) three articles across three JRST issues to fully articulate her research methods and findings.
Forty years later, Rowe’s (1974) recommendation for wait-time remains well known, but her purpose in calling for its implementation appears less so. Rowe viewed wait-time as central to effective implementation of inquiry instruction. She understood that close attention to the substance, forms, and fluency of students’ every day and science talk was necessary to nurture their curiosity and to support their investigations of natural phenomena. She persuasively argued for movement from “interchanges between teachers and children [that] . . . more closely resemble an inquisition [a sequence of rapid-fire questions and answers]” to “a joint investigation or a reasonable conversation” (p. 82). As such, our current emphasis on science discourse as integral to reform-based science education (Duschl, Schweingruber, & Shouse, 2007; National Research Council, 2012) has firm historical roots. The work of Rowe (and others) can inform our understanding of how best to promote student-student and student-teacher talk in the teaching and learning of science.
Encouraging the transition from concrete to formal cognitive functioning-An experiment
Lawson, A. E., & Wollman, W. T. (1976)
Commentary by Hsin-Kai Wu
Anton Lawson’s work has been helping us interpret and examine Piaget’s theory and provided profound insight into the improvement of science teaching. Rather than taking a position that teachers must wait until students are cognitively ready, Lawson and Wollman (1976) conducted a well-planned and thoughtful experiment to illustrate the complex interplay between development and instruction. The study showed that given appropriate instruction children are capable to achieve a cognitive level higher than the one indicated by the stage-like developmental theory. The results contribute significantly to the instruction literature and provide evidence that children’s capabilities are sensitive and amenable to instruction and that children’s development can be advanced under well-designed instruction. Thus, the developmentally appropriate science education should not only concern students’ starting points suggested by developmental psychology but should also take classroom instruction into consideration.
Another significant contribution of Lawson’s series of studies to scientific reasoning is the development of a valid instrument for measuring cognitive levels and reasoning skills. Although most of the tasks in the instrument were adopted from the literature, Lawson and Wollman (1976) and Lawson (1978) successfully transformed these reasoning tasks into a useful classroom test and developed scoring rubrics to grade students’ responses. The reasoning test has become one of the most widely used instruments in science education and been frequently chosen as the criterion to establish the validity of a newly developed test. This valid and reliable instrument of scientific reasoning allows follow-up researchers to explore important issues in science learning and teaching, and is an important resource for research on scientific thinking, inquiry skills, and science abilities. Science teaching and the development of reasoning
Science teaching and the development of reasoning
Karplus, R. (1977)
Commentary by Hsin-Kai Wu
Like Lawson and Wollman (1976), Karplus (1977) was also built upon Piaget’s theory and emphasized the role of instruction in cognitive development. As the late Karplus stated on p. 174, “Piaget’s ideas can and should be used actively for instructional improvement, and should not be interpreted as implying that education must wait until development has occurred spontaneously.” In this short position paper, Karplus (1977) offered an excellent example of how a cognitive theory can be translated into observable learning performances and feasible instructional methods. He dissected the concrete and formal reasoning into two sets of reasoning patterns and demonstrated the applications of Piaget’s theory to teaching concepts of density and temperature, proposed the use of learning cycle to facilitate concept development, and illustrated the connections between Piaget’s theory and the three phases in the cycle.
Additionally, three significant contributions are made in Karplus (1977). First, the article suggests a close connection between the formation of reasoning patterns and concept learning. Of much importance today, recent research has shown that scientific reasoning and conceptual development are intertwined in complicated ways. Second, the three-phase learning cycle has been one of the most influential instructional models in science and modified into various forms for constructivist and inquiry learning. This article captures the original ideas and theoretical foundations behind the model. Third, the notion of self-regulation and the active role played by the individual are recognized and emphasized in the article. These topics are still prominent in current studies of science learning, particularly those in the student-centered settings.
1980 – 1989
Adolescent reasoning in socio-scientific issues, part I: Social cognition
Fleming, R. (1986)
Commentary by Randy Bell
In 1994, I entered the science education doctoral program at Oregon State University, fresh from the field, with six years of science teaching in a rural Oregon high school. Having some experience in teaching the nature of science, I began working with Norm Lederman. I soon learned that central to the rationale for nature of science instruction is the assertion that improved understandings of science and its processes will lead to better decisions on socio-scientific issues (Driver, Leach, Millar, & Scott, 1996). However, at the end of the 1990’s, when I was working on my dissertation, this assertion had little empirical support.
Central to the conceptual framework for this line of research is Fleming’s (1986) manuscript that explored the nature of the interaction between adolescents' knowledge of the physical and social worlds when making decisions on STS related social issues. Working with high school students, Fleming found that the primary domain of reasoning for these adolescents lie within the area of social cognition. More specifically, participants’ reasoning focused on (a) the moral domain, which emphasizes concepts regarding the welfare and rights of others and justice, and (b) the personal domain, which emphasizes self-preservation, respect for individuality, and control over one's physical state.
These findings, in conjunction with some of the early work of Zeidler and Lederman, led me to question the assumption that one’s understanding of the nature of science necessarily impacts decision making on socio-scientific issues. Testing this assumption became the focus of my dissertation and subsequent work (e.g., Bell & Lederman, 2003; Matkins & Bell , 2007; Bell, Matkins, & Gansneder, 2011). It turns out that the relationship is much more complicated than originally assumed, and delineating its complexity has occupied the efforts of many science educators. Those of us who have explored decision making on socio-scientific issues owe a debt of gratitude to Fleming’s original work more than 25 years ago.
Commentary by Troy Sadler
By the time of this article’s publication in the mid 1980s, the science-technology-society (STS) approach to science education was well established. Fleming situates his work as a part of the STS movement, but he distinguishes the research by focusing on student negotiation of “socio-scientific issues” (p. 677) which he classifies as “multidimensional and ambiguous” (p. 679) and which necessarily require the synthesis of “knowledge of the physical world and knowledge of the social world” (p. 677). Fleming borrowed the term socio-scientific issues (SSI) from a philosophy of science text (Wessel, 1980), but he was the first to introduce the expression to the science education community. More important than the term is the article’s focus on how students balance moral issues, social conventions and personal reasoning as they consider complex issues at the intersection of science and society. In this article and a companion piece, also published in JRST, Fleming provides empirical evidence of how important these considerations are as well as the relatively limited contributions of science content knowledge in learners’ natural decision-making processes. This is not to say that science content and practices should not be a primary focus in the negotiation of SSI, but rather, that most students require significant supports in order to incorporate their scientific understandings as they consider complex SSI. Fleming argues that science educators should take advantage of students’ natural inclinations to respond to complex issues through social cognition as a “starting point for instruction” (p. 686). The STS movement remained prominent more than a decade beyond this publication. While some work classified under the STS banner was consistent with Fleming’s contribution, many STS projects moved in different directions. In the early 2000s, researchers began distinguishing SSI-themed work from the broader STS projects, and the themes Fleming discussed became central to these distinctions. Fleming’s article became a seminal reference for the emerging SSI movement.
Cognitive consequences of student estimation on linear and logarithmic scales
Berger, C. F., Pintrich, P. R., and Stemmer, P. M. (1987)
Commentary by Thomas R. Tretter
Much of current science is well beyond our ability to directly perceive it – phenomena whose spatial scale are too big (e.g. cosmology) or too small (e.g. nanoscience), too fast (e.g. synapses firing) or too slow (e.g. geologic time). Yet in spite of our sensory limitations, we have made tremendous strides in scientific understanding at these extremes of scale, and this is reflected in our K-16 science curricula. A strand of my research has explored how people from elementary age through scientifically accomplished adults think about these types of scientific phenomena. One key resource to support the necessary thinking (intuitively or mathematically) is to be able to think logarithmically rather than linearly. Berger, Pintrich, and Stemmers’ (1987) study on student cognitive approaches to thinking logarithmically vs. linearly was one key reading that focused my thinking on this core cognitive issue and influenced my research. Their study measured middle school students’ performance on a computer-delivered estimation task (firing a virtual dart at a target, where the student input a numerical estimate of the location of the pictured target on a number line). After the dart hit at the student-estimated location, students got immediate feedback on the actual numerical position of the target, and repeated the exercise for 10 targets. Results showed that while linear estimations got progressively faster across the 10 trials, logarithmic ones did not, highlighting the need for cognitive processing time when thinking logarithmically. Both the linear and logarithmic tasks showed the lowest errors when the target was near one of the labeled endpoints and the highest errors when it was farthest from any labeled endpoint, with this error difference more pronounced for the logarithmic scenario. This result highlighted that when thinking logarithmically, having benchmark reference points as cognitive touchpoints is even more important than it is when thinking linearly.
The role of language in children’s formation and retention of mental images
Howe, A.; & Vasu, E. (1988)
Commentary by Bryan Brown
JRST sustained a profound tradition of leading scholarship by planting the seeds of intellectual growth in critical areas of research. This tradition is evident in studies about relationship between discourse, cognition, and the culture of science learning.
Two manuscripts exemplify this history. Ann Howe & Ellen Vasu’s (1988) examination of discourse and students’ retention of images provides as example of trend setting scholarship. They compared students’ retention of science cross-section images. Their work highlighted how understanding an image was differentially affected by producing a visual representation or verbal descriptions of the phenomenon. The power of this research lies in the illumination of the role of discourse as a dynamic cognitive device that has many forms (symbolic, mathematic, textual, and linguistic).
Ohkee Lee’s (1997) editorial served as another example of JRST’s capacity to push or understanding of the role of discourse and students’ cognition. Lee argued that, “students bring with them their own ways of looking at the world that are representative of their cultural and language environments (p.221).” This piece and the line of scholarship in the special issue on science literacy illuminated how issues of discourse learning could ultimately be explored through understanding the relationship between students’ cultural discourse and those valued by classroom science.
Both Howe & Vasu (1988) and Lee (1988) helped scholars reconsider how language plays a role in the mediation of science ideas. How & Vasu (1988) point to the cognitive difficulty of mastering the multimodal, dense, and complicated nature of science discourse. Conversely, Lee (1988) highlighted how science literacy has long be conceived us as the property of the western world and has largely misused the linguistic resources embedded in the everyday culture and discourse of people all over the world. Ultimately, our new era of research has much to learn from the tradition established by Howe & Vasu (1988) and Lee (1988). Developing a comprehensive understanding of how discourse, culture, and cognition are critical dimensions of science learning can enhance the science education community. Fortunately, the seeds of intellectual growth were sown for the JARST community to nourish for years to come.
1990 – 1999
Epistemological perspectives on conceptual change: Implications for education practice
Duschl, R. A., & Gitomer, D. H. (1991)
Commentary by Grady Venville
This paper was published just as I moved from being a classroom science teacher to embarking on doctoral studies in the early 1990s. I found the article powerful because of the lucid and critical connections Rick Duschl and Drew Gitomer were able to make between the history and philosophy of science, cognitive psychology, science education theory, and the dynamics of the classroom, including assessment.
The most commanding aspect of the paper is the description of portfolio culture that Duschl and Gitomer align with their view of conceptual change teaching and learning and integrate with assessment. What was new at that time for me, was the notion of students making a collection of their work that would enable them to evaluate their own knowledge claims and provide evidence of their own conceptual development. I was excited when I first read this article by the idea that creating a portfolio is an intentional and autonomous activity that students can undertake to take control of their own learning. The portfolio mechanism, described by Duschl and Gitomer, created for probably the first time in my mind a practical method where learning was transformed from something the teacher does to the learner, to something the learner does for themselves with the guidance of the teacher.
I found three other aspects of the paper very helpful. First, the overview of conceptual change perspectives on learning included all the seminal papers up to that time and mapped the critical changes in the way that learning had been viewed historically. Second, the authors used an example from Earth science of plate tectonics to illustrate the logic of a developmental approach for conceptual change that helped to bring the complex theoretical discussion alive for me. Third, Table 1 outlined both traditional and portfolio cultures in science classrooms and the juxtaposition improved my understanding of science, curriculum goals, the role of the teacher and the role of the learning.
Rethinking science education: Beyond Piagetian constructivism toward a sociocultural model of teaching and learning
O'Loughlin, M. (1992)
Commentary by Heidi B. Carlone
In Rethinking science education: Beyond Piagetian constructivism toward a sociocultural model of teaching and learning, Michael O’Loughlin (1992) challenged science education’s dominant assumptions about the processes of learning (Piagetian constructivism) and the pedagogy claimed to support robust learning (student-centered pedagogy). O’Loughlin argued that learning is tied to social, historical, material, and cultural processes, wrought with power, that operate at multiple levels, all of which Piagetian constructivism ignores. This piece spoke to me powerfully during my graduate work. As I Re-read it for this virtual special issue, I have a renewed appreciation for the ways it was a truly cutting edge article at the time and for its continued relevance for the field today.
Piagetian constructivism, O’Loughlin argued, was not adequate to use as a foundation for radical educational change because of its conservative nature. Constructivism presented “the central problem of epistemology as coming to know reality as it is in order to successfully adapt to it” (p. 799), rather than with arming students with tools to critique and ultimately transform unjust realities. Furthermore, by placing technical rational thought at the top of the mental functioning hierarchy, Piaget’s constructivism disempowers learners since, as O’Loughlin argued, “abstraction is the source of mystification and oppression” (p. 801, drawing on Freire, 1989).
O’Loughlin’s critiques are well-reasoned and point to the lack of consideration for human subjectivity, communication processes, and power relations inherent in school learning. He proposed a more critical, social, and situated view of learning (a sociocultural model) by threading together situated cognition theories from Lave (1988) and Wertsch (1991) and critical theories of education by Freire (1989) and Delpit (1988).
O’Loughlin brought up hard-hitting questions that gave rise to a whole body of critical science education scholarship that followed, such as: How are we accounting for power relations inherent in processes of science learning? What about the cultural processes of schooling that make relevant people’s positions among larger social structures? What is the purpose of science education? Whose interests are served by positioning science learning as an abstract, decontextualized, disembodied activity? Our current theories of science teaching and learning might be well-served by asking similar questions.
Students’ and teachers’ conceptions of the nature of science: A review of the research
Lederman, N. G. (1992)
Commentary by Fouad Abd-El-Khalick
JRST has consistently published manuscripts that shaped various domains of research in science education. Indeed, of the 25 most cited papers in the field, 12 appear in JRST. Lederman’s (1992) review of the research on nature of science (NOS) is a pronounced example of such papers. NOS is one of the most prominent and long-lived research domains in science education: At least 300 peer-refereed journal articles on teaching and learning about NOS have been published since the mid 1950s, with the overwhelming majority appearing after 1990. Lederman’s stands as an exemplar for effective literature reviews in terms of answering the two crucial questions, “What have we learned? and where are we headed” (p. 332). This review practically re-defined the domain, and continues to frame research and discussions around NOS two decades after its publication. Lederman opens with establishing the ubiquity and longevity of goals related to developing precollege students’ NOS understandings. He organizes the research into four overlapping, but largely sequential lines. The first was focused on assessing NOS conceptions; it established the prevalence of naïve NOS ideas among students, which were attributed to a lack of relevant knowledge. Thus, the next line of research focused on designing, implementing, and testing curricula aimed at improving student NOS conceptions. Initial assumptions and claims about the teacher-proof effectiveness of these curricula later gave way to realizing the centrality to such effectiveness of teacher understandings, interests, attitudes, and instructional practices. Next, the third line of research focused on assessing and improving teachers’ NOS conceptions, and was predicated on assuming that teacher conceptions directly transfer into their classroom practices, and that these conceptions directly affect student NOS understandings. The empirical failure of the latter two assumptions launched the fourth line of investigation, which focused on the myriad of factors that mediate the translation of teachers’ NOS conceptions into their practice, including teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge related to NOS. Lederman’s elucidation of the domain’s major assumptions, issues, and agendas serves to explain the far reaching impact of this paper, which at 370 citations stands as the most cited paper in the field of science education.
Commentary by Randy Bell
From my earliest days of teaching science in a small community in Oregon’s high desert, I knew that I wanted to help mitigate the conflict that students often perceive between science and religion. Having been raised in the bible belt of Appalachia, I knew first-hand just how challenging it can be to reconcile the findings of science with deeply held religious convictions.
Early influences on my thinking on science and religion included the writings of Stephen J. Gould and Carl Sagan. These writers emphasized the different natures of science and religion and the perspective that these disparate ways of knowing can and should complement each other. I became convinced that helping students develop accurate conceptions of the scientific enterprise was key to mitigating the conflict they perceived between science and religion. So, when I began my doctoral work, I knew that I wanted to work in the area of teaching and learning about the nature of science. But how was I to begin? The field was already rich, with more than four decades of research. How could I begin to find, let alone assimilate, all of this information?
Thankfully for me, Norm Lederman had just completed a comprehensive review of the research on the nature of science (Lederman, 1992). The work was not a formal meta-analysis, but something even more useful—a guide to what we have learned and what is left to learn about teaching and learning the nature of science. In essence, it was the perfect advance organizer for my research program. Over the next 15 years, I referred to Lederman’s review countless times, which became a ubiquitous component of the conceptual frameworks of my nature of science research. I am not the only one who has found the review helpful—according to Google Scholar, this single work has been cited more than 1300 times! Norm’s review has served as a guide for many researchers, and the starting place for hundreds of investigations.
A good review does more than summarize what is known. It serves as a map for where we should go next; a foundation for work to come. By that measure, Lederman’s (1992) manuscript is one of the most effective reviews ever published in JRST, and is still the definitive guide to early research on the nature of science. I have no doubt that it will continue to serve the science education community for many years to come.
Scientific literacy for all: What is it, and how can we achieve it?
Lee, O. (1997)
See commentary by Bryan Brown, above
Teaching science with homeless children: Pedagogy, representation, and identity
Calabrese Barton, A. (1998)
Commentary by Heidi B. Carlone
This article was groundbreaking in its time, but I am struck by the fact that it still represents a cutting-edge perspective for science education. In this article, Calabrese Barton introduces issues that have since defined over a decade’s worth of critical science education research and continue to be relevant today—“questions of representation in science (what science is made to be) and identity in science (who we think we must be to engage in that science)” (p. 380). I remember reading this article as a graduate student and being so inspired! Here was a scholar who critiqued mainstream assumptions about what counted as “science” in science education, envisioned alternative realities that placed homeless youths’ lived experiences at the center of the science learning endeavor, and enacted an after-school program with homeless children to act on her vision. Drawing on critical and feminist perspectives, she “explore(d) the question of what it means to create a science for all from the vantage point of urban homeless children” (p. 379). Telling the stories of the ways three girls in a homeless shelter used science to make sense of their lived experiences, Calabrese Barton provided a radical, paradigm-shifting vision for equitable science education. Her pedagogical and theoretical approaches “decentered” science so that the goal of science at the homeless shelter (called “science time”) was “not to fit [youths’] experiences into science; it was to fit exploration of the natural world, questioning, and critique into their experiences” (p. 389). She wrote the case studies in vivid and compelling narratives, bringing in important aspects of the girls’ stories that, in previous science education literature, would have been seen as "irrelevant" to science learning.
Calabrese Barton further challenged the thinking of the day by redefining “pedagogy” as the “production of scientific knowledge”, including content, processes, and discourses and as the “production of values and beliefs about how scientific knowledge is created and validated, as well as who we must be to engage in that process” (p. 380). She emphasized that one’s location along social, historical, and political dimensions affect meanings of science, self, and self-within-science. These are foundational aspects of a critical science education that emphasize the situated and political nature of science pedagogy. “Pedagogy in science classrooms is… about the struggle for identities and representations” (p. 382).
Perhaps the aspect of this work that captures my imagination and inspires me the most is that Calabrese Barton walked the talk of the new vision of “science for all” she put forth; she did incredible work as a teacher/scholar/activist to enact her vision and reflect on the meanings the “science time” she spent with the youth meant to them and to her. Finally, she did this work with urban homeless children, those who “are most at risk for receiving an inequitable education” (p. 381).
2000 – Present
Embracing the essence of inquiry: New roles for science teachers
Crawford, B. A. (2000)
Commentary by Katherine L. McNeill
I was exposed to Barbara Crawford’s (2000) article, Embracing the essence of inquiry: New roles for science teachers, during my doctoral program. This piece clearly illustrates the multiple, complex and demanding roles required for a science teacher to successfully orchestrate a reform-oriented classroom. Crawford’s work has pushed my thinking in two ways. First of all, the piece encouraged me to think about the fact that a science curriculum is not used in a vacuum, but rather the context and teacher significantly impact curricular enactment. As Crawford argues, “If we are to avoid the failures of our past related to giving teachers teacher-proof curriculum, we need to turn our attention to how best to support teachers in embracing the essence of inquiry” (p. 935). This idea fueled my dissertation work (McNeill, 2009) as well as subsequent research (McNeill, Pimentel & Strauss, in press) in which I have considered curricular design and use from the perspective of the teacher as a learner and a designer of his or her classroom community. Furthermore, this piece has an important message for my work, as well as the field more broadly, about the importance of bridging research and practice and writing publications that appeal to a wide audience. In her introduction, Crawford states, “Details of day-to-day events in the real world of classroom life are left to the imagination and often frustration of the classroom teacher striving to use inquiry-based strategies. The gap between research and practice may contribute to the disparity between the intended curriculum of the reforms and the implemented curriculum in classrooms” (p. 917). Personally, I have used her article with numerous pre-service and in-service teachers who find the article not only accessible, but also inspiring and transformative for their own classroom instruction. As we work as a field to change k-12 science education, we need to develop pieces, such as this one, which resonate not only with the research community, but also with a broader audience such as teachers, administrators, curriculum designers and policy makers. The broad dissemination of our work is essential to significantly impact actual classroom practice.
What kind of a girl does science?
Brickhouse, N.W., Lowery, P., & Schultz, K. (2000)
Commentary by Heidi B. Carlone
This is a watershed article for gender, equity, and identity studies. Nancy Brickhouse, Patricia Lowery & Schultz describe the identity performances of four scientifically interested and capable African American girls across seventh and eighth grade school science. It is one of the first articles to explicitly name and operationalize the notion of “school science identity” and continues to be, even today, one of the few in-depth, longitudinal case studies of students’ identity performances. The article is highly cited; it had a big influence on the field, and on my own work.
The authors contest deficit-based, homogeneous stories of girls in science by focusing on four successful African American girls who believed they were good in science and were not alienated by science. Much of the gender literature in science education, up to this point, had focused on White girls, confirmed deficit-based perspectives, and/or tried to explain the gender gap in science. By focusing on scientific identities of different African American girls, this article contested essentialized, static portrayals of girls, African Americans, and African American girls.
The authors describe learning as identity formation rather than a process of constructing understandings. At the time, this was a radical notion. They argue, “[W]e have not sufficiently attended to the more fundamental question of whether students see themselves as the kind of people who would want to understand the world scientifically and thus participate in the kinds of activities that are likely to lead to the appropriation of scientific meanings” (p. 443). This view of science learning prompted multiple new questions of learning and contexts that had been heretofore ignored in the science education literature. For instance, how do students perform themselves and get recognized by others? How do race, class, gender and other social identities get intertwined with that recognition? How do those identities intersect with students’ views of scientific identities?
Brickhouse and colleagues also illustrated the explanatory power of identity for equity studies by attending to micro- and macro- contexts. This view of identity “accounts for the importance of both individual agency as well as societal structures that constrain individual possibilities” (p. 444). This lens enabled valuable new insights about school science and why and how gender gaps persist, even for academically capable girls. For instance, Brickhouse and colleagues critically examine the identities that are celebrated in school science and, incidentally, those identities were not particularly “scientific” and reproduced school-sanctioned gender norms. “This raises the question of whether girls who are being encouraged to continue in high-level science in the short-run… are actually the ones who are most likely to stay engaged in science over the long term” (p. 456). I do not believe science education scholars have yet answered this question, nor have they consistently asked this question.
Deep time framework: A preliminary study of U.K. primary teachers’ conceptions of geological time and perceptions of geosciences
Trend, R.D. (2001)
Commentary by Thomas R. Tretter
Many human sensory modes tend to operate in a logarithmic fashion (Weber’s Law). For example, this includes the haptic sense of weight whereby holding 100g in one hand may be haptically distinguishable from 110g in the other hand, but 1000g vs. 1010g may not be (whereas 1000g vs. 1100g is). A similar logarithmic scaling occurs in our sense of sound volume (dB) and in our sense of brightness (luminosity). Yet, in spite of this inherent logarithmic nature to some of our direct senses, our minds tend to default to processing inputs linearly. Because of the tendency for people to confound direct logarithmic perceptions with linear thinking, a research measurement scenario aimed at unpacking intuitive logarithmic thinking that asks people to directly report their thinking may likewise confound the two. To avoid this potential problem, it would be methodologically important to measure magnitude perceptions and ideas in a manner that minimizes a potential confound between logarithmic and linear. Trend’s (2001) article exploring preservice teachers’ conceptions of deep geologic time offered a helpful model for implementation of a useful measurement approach, including an approach for analyses and interpretation that has served me as a model for a number of studies that included an emphasis on participants’ cognitive orientation to extreme scales. In particular, Trend’s analyses prioritized the within-participant ranking of sets of objects or events rather than absolute values as indicators of participants’ intuitive conceptions. So, while a particular object may vary widely across participants’ conceptions of absolute size, the relative ranking of that object may be stable across participants. Combining this analysis approach with an interpretative lens that considers gaps in average rankings across a group to represent a collective conceptual break-point from one scale to the next, has proven to be helpful for uncovering people’s intuitive scale perceptions.
Fostering students' knowledge and argumentation skills through dilemmas in human genetics
Zohar, A., & Nemet, F. (2002)
Commentary by Troy Sadler
In the last decade, argumentation has become one of the most important research areas in science education. From my perspective, the attention paid to argumentation helped to highlight deficiencies in the ways in which inquiry was commonly implemented in school science. That is, although argumentation is a key aspect of doing science and should be a necessary element of classroom-based inquiry, learning experiences labeled as inquiry tend not to direct enough emphasis on learners’ opportunities to engage in argumentation. This situation helped to motivate the shift in focus for national reform of science education toward the prioritization of scientific practices. This article is one of several high quality, argumentation-focused research studies published in JRST; I chose to highlight this particular article because I see it as one of the initial publications which helped to establish the research basis of the argumentation theme within our field. I also selected this article because it has been a very useful resource for my own work. I stumbled upon an early version of this manuscript as I worked on my dissertation research, which focused on student reasoning in the context of socio-scientific issues. Zohar and Nemet frame their investigation by drawing upon literature from psychology and philosophy. The authors succinctly but effectively discuss and present a framework to disentangle knowledge and reasoning, formal and informal reasoning, and argumentation and informal reasoning. More importantly, they use this framework to develop research questions, methods, and conclusions. All researchers should present well-aligned theoretical and conceptual frameworks, questions, methods, and findings; but this alignment is not always achieved or at least clearly presented. As a novice researcher, I found this piece to be an excellent example of how a research study should be framed. The study provided evidence of the positive impacts of explicit teaching of argumentation in terms of student understanding of biological knowledge and abilities to engage in argumentation practices. Given the significance of scientific argumentation, these are important findings, and for me, the study still serves as a model piece of scholarship.
Enhancing the quality of argumentation in school science
Osborne, J., Erduran, S. & Simon, S. (2004)
Commentary by Katherine L. McNeill
Osborne, Erduran and Simon’s (2004) JRST article, Enhancing the quality of argumentation in school science, has greatly influenced my view and the fields view of what counts as scientific literacy for k-12 education. Originally, I was exposed to the study in 2002 which Jonathan Osborne presented this piece at NARST. At the time, I was in the first year of my doctoral program at the University of Michigan. When I began the doctoral program, I was specifically interested in the design of science curriculum to support scientific inquiry. However, I was struggling with what scientific inquiry meant to me as well as to the field more broadly. Furthermore, I was engaged in research around the design of a middle school science curriculum in which students initially struggled with making sense of the data they collected in their investigations and using that data to support claims (McNeill & Krajcik, 2007). Hearing Osborne speak and then reading the article provided me with a new perspective and new language to think about supporting classroom discourse in which students construct and critique claims using evidence. The article encourages the science education community to move beyond teaching science as just a body of content to include educating “our students and citizens about how we know and why we believe in the scientific worldview” (p. 995). This shift includes an essential focus on the role of evidence in the construction of explanations and a consideration of scientific criteria when engaging in scientific argumentation to develop and critique explanations. This seminal piece has been cited by many in the field including in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012) in terms of the importance of engaging students in scientific practices, such as argumentation, as well as the need to support teachers in integrating these practices into their classrooms. The growing body of work around argumentation suggests that these issues have been taken up by the science education community as we attempt to transcend “the dogmatic, uncritical, and unquestioning nature of so much of the traditional fare offered in science classrooms” (Osborne et al., 2004, p. 1017).